Actress Gillian Anderson, known for her role as Dana Scully in The X-Files, recently featured in a talk on misinformation from brand management company Yext.
In the virtual event, entitled ‘Truth Be Told’, Anderson was interviewed by the EMEA VP of marketing at Yext, John Watton, about her on-screen roles as truth-seekers in shows like The X-Files and The Fall, and her charity and humanitarian work.
Anderson said that, much like Scully or Stella Gibson (The Fall), she has a tendency to steer towards truth in her personal life. “I try to address things head on,” she said, “which is either embraced or not”.
Although several of her characters have sought the truth, Anderson said it was not a “conscious decision” to choose those characters. The actress has actually purposely sought out characters that vastly differ from each other, like Blanche Dubois (A Streetcar Named Desire), Miss Havisham (Great Expectations) and, most recently, Dr Jean Milburn, on the Netflix show Sex Education.
“I feel like it’s something that has to be challenging,” said Anderson, explaining that after playing complex characters it is difficult to play anything less. She added that, especially after playing Scully, she wanted to make sure she was not “repeating” herself.
The role she has enjoyed most in her career was Blanche Dubois, in the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. The production ran in 2014 at the Young Vic in London, and Anderson said the role of Blanche was one of the most challenging she has ever had.
In 2017, Anderson and journalist Jennifer Nadel co-wrote the book ‘We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere’, which focused on the empowerment of women. Anderson said one of the aims was to create a community where women could reach out to one another, and called it a tool to get honest about life.
Originally the book was meant to be published without attribution to Anderson and Nadel, to highlight that the experiences could have been anyone. “There’s something incredibly vulnerable about the truth, which is admitting that’s me,” said Anderson. “It’s really hard to get really honest… it’s challenging and yet sometimes we can’t really move forward in our life until we do.”
She is also known for her charity and humanitarian work. Over the years the celebrity has shown support for many charities, including The Trevor Project, Cancer Research UK and PETA. Anderson said she was never interested in getting involved politically but, as she got older, she realised there were certain topics she wanted to speak out about.
One of her most recent on-screen roles was Margaret Thatcher in Netflix series The Crown. Anderson said, unlike her fictional roles, much of her preparation for her role as Thatcher involved lots of historical research.
“In something that’s not historical you rely so much on something that’s on the page,” Anderson said. “There’s so much information out there, there’s so much research to be done, you start at the beginning and read.”
Despite all her research, Anderson said the character should be played as looking through the Queen’s eyes and her experience, and “ultimately with the crown, it’s all through the prism of the crown”.
The Crown season four, starring Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher, will be available on Netflix from November 15, 2020.